FARGO - North Dakota State should think about having more Senior Night men’s basketball games. Tyson Ward, Jared Samuelson and Vinnie Shahid took turns lighting the house on fire in their last appearance at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex
The 87-67 win over Nebraska Omaha before 3,758 fans on Saturday afternoon gave NDSU a share of the Summit League regular season title and the No. 1 seed for the postseason tournament that starts next weekend in Sioux Falls, S.D.
NDSU and South Dakota State both finished league play at 13-3, but the Bison got the tiebreaker by virtue of a better record against third place University of South Dakota. NDSU swept the Coyotes while the Jackrabbits split.
It was a three-man army against the Mavericks. Ward started it scoring 14 of NDSU’s first 19 points. Samuelson had the best half of his career hitting 6 of 6 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes. And Shahid was steady throughout finishing with 20 points and nine assists.
The three accounted for 80 percent of NDSU’s offensive production with Ward leading the way with 29 points and Samuelson 21. Ward in particular was a tough matchup all day with nifty moves underneath and 4 of 4 shooting from 3-point range.
“That was fun, I had a blast,” Ward said.
It capped an emotional day for Ward, who was visibly touched in pregame Senior Night introductions with the players and their parents.
“Those were happy tears,” Ward said. “I blame it on my moms. They started crying and I don’t like it when they cry so I started crying.”
Said Bison head coach Dave Richman: “What I hope everybody saw was the emotion Tyson ward walked out onto the court with because that young man is emotional, he plays with emotion and he’s challenged the heck out of me for four years but it’s been rewarding as heck as well to be a part of that journey.”
Samuelson had a rewarding touch from beyond the arc. He hit 7 of 9 3-pointers, falling two short of his school record for made 3-pointers. NDSU was 15 of 34 from 3, falling one short of tying the school record.
“It makes all of our jobs easier,” Shahid said of Samuelson’s 3-point binge. “His defender can’t leave him as much and he’s doing his job every time he touches. Just have to do a good job of getting him the ball when he’s hot like that.”
NDSU threatened an early knockout punch on the Mavericks in the first half thanks to a torching performance from 3-point distance. Samuelson’s fifth trey in the first half gave the Bison a 43-23 lead with less than five minutes remaining.
Omaha regrouped, however. Three straight 3-pointers of its own cut that deficit in half, but Shahid finished the half with three straight free throws and the Bison led 54-41.
NDSU shot 58 percent including 10 of 17 3-pointers.
NDSU held serve in the first several minutes of the second half, crucial in not letting Omaha back in the game. Ward scored his team’s first five points and the advantage quickly reached 17 points.
Shahid’s 3-pointer around the 15-minute mark made it a 20-point game. Later, Samuelson’s seventh trey made it 81-58 with 5:38 remaining.
The victory was part of a big week for the Bison, who defeated SDSU on Thursday night to get a shot at sharing the title.
“We like a challenge and we really stepped up to the plate this weekend,” Ward said. “Had lot of fun doing it. That’s what we really stressed throughout the whole week. It wasn’t about the title or anything, it was about having fun and just going out there and play.”
NDSU will take a 22-8 record into postseason.
“This group doesn’t really waver much for confidence,” Richman said. “That’s great, they play with a ton of a swagger.”
UNO (16-15, 9-7 Summit): Tut 4-6 0-0 8, Pile 1-7 1-2 3, Gibson 5-10 4-4 15, Thornhill 1-2 1-3 3, Robinson 6-14 4-4 18, Ruffin 5-12 0-0 12, Hughes 1-2 0-2 2, Akinwole 2-7 1-2 6. Totals: 25-60 11-17 67.
NDSU (22-8, 13-3 Summit): Kreuser 2-8 0-0 5, Shahid 7-15 4-4 20, Samuelson 7-9 0-0 21, Quayle 1-4 0-0 2, Ward 11-16 3-3 29, Eady 2-3 0-0 5, Griesel 0-2 2-2 2, Hunter 1-5 1-1 3, Witz 0-1 0-0 0, Knotek 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 31-64 10-10 87.
Halftime: NDSU 54, UNO 41. Total fouls: UNO 12, NDSU 15. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: UNO 35 (Thornhill, Ruffin 7); NDSU 34 (three with 5). 3-point goals: UNO 6-24 (Gibson 1-6, Thornhill 0-1, Robinson 2-9, Ruffin 2-5, Akinwole 1-3); NDSU 15-34 (Kreuser 1-5, Shahid 2-9, Samuelson 7-9, Quayle 0-1, Ward 4-4, Eady 1-1, Hunter 0-3, Knotek 0-1). Assists: UNO 8 (three with 2); NDSU 16 (Shahid 9). Turnovers: UNO 9 (Robinson 3); NDSU 9 (Shahid, Eady 2). A-3,758.